Welcome to the August 2021 issue of Conservation Pulse, our regular update on the progress we are making together to help people and nature thrive. Global to local, things are moving forward – from the ambition being shown by world leaders to help nature recover to the amazing individuals in Bosnia and Herzegovina who successfully challenged destructive plans for their local river. People everywhere are helping to build a better future – and you can help too!
World leaders must work together to halt and reverse the tragic destruction of our natural world – or we will all suffer the catastrophic consequences. So it was great to see welcome signs of ambition at the recent G7 inter-governmental meeting, with the announcement of a new ‘Nature Compact’ initiative. This builds on the landmark pledge by almost 90 countries to put nature on the path to recovery in the coming decade. Governments and pledge supporters are joining a new campaign, #TheRaceIsOn, to ensure pledge commitments are converted into concrete global and national action. Meanwhile, we are urging leaders to take key decisions on other interlinked issues – from getting to grips with the climate crisis and changing the way we produce and consume, to tackling the root causes of pandemics such as deforestation and high-risk wildlife trade. There can be a positive future for nature and people – but decision makers must take urgent action!
Our wonderful forests are being degraded and lost at an alarming rate due to the increasing demand for land, energy, and wood products. So we’ve launched a new initiative that gives businesses and investors the opportunity to do something positive about this. Nineteen companies and investors have already joined our new Forests Forward platform, which aims to improve the management of 150 million hectares of forest by 2030. Participants get involved in projects that are both profitable and support the sustainable use of forests; helping to maintain a rich diversity of wildlife and safeguard the many benefits they offer to people – everything from providing food security and livelihoods to preventing dangerous climate change. The crucial role played by Indigenous peoples and local communities in forest conservation is strongly recognized in this new initiative. Here’s an example from north-eastern Cambodia of how we are working with communities and other partners to safeguard our precious forests.
Out of sight, out of mind. Too often, the extinction crisis facing life in rivers, lakes and wetlands is ignored or misunderstood. The good news is that a new WWF-backed initiative plans to do something about this using cutting-edge DNA technology – helping to fill knowledge gaps so conservation work can be better targeted. Led by NatureMetrics and IUCN, the eBioAtlas project will see 30,000 water samples taken in dozens of areas ranging from the Ganges to the Niger Delta over the next three years. DNA traces left in the water will be analyzed to identify the variety of species living in and around the waters, giving us a clearer picture of what’s happening above and below the surface. Freshwater environments are vitally important to people as well as wildlife, from the water we drink to the fish that feeds millions. So this initiative will benefit every one of us!
The Doñana National Park in Spain is an absolute gem that we have been working to safeguard throughout our 60-year history. A vital stopping point for many thousands of migratory birds from Europe and Africa, and a home for many species including the endangered Iberian lynx, it’s no surprise that the park was declared a UN natural World Heritage site almost 30 years ago. However, things haven’t always gone smoothly for this iconic wilderness, and WWF and other friends of the park have had to intervene when threats arise.
The unsustainable extraction of water for strawberry cultivation is one such threat. In the last 20 years, WWF-Spain has uncovered more than 1,000 illegal wells and over 3,000 hectares of illegal crops in the park. And now our complaint to the EU Commission has led to the EU Court of Justice ruling that the Spanish government has broken EU law by allowing “excessive extractions of groundwater”. This is brilliant news but we are now calling for urgent follow-up action to close all illegal farms.
A lot of our news is about encouraging leaders to take urgent action. But, sometimes, the responsibility falls directly on us, as Maida Bilal’s story in Bosnia and Herzegovina shows. Maida, who has just been awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, led a group of women who successfully challenged the construction of two hydropower plants on the Kruščica River in 2017 with the support of WWF-Adria and others. For 500 days and nights, they physically prevented construction from starting. Hydro plants like this lead to devastating impacts on both people and nature – everything from blocking fish migration routes to trapping sediments that would otherwise protect riverbanks against floods. Unfortunately, Maida’s well-deserved award comes at a time when thousands of harmful and unnecessary hydro plants are still being planned in the Balkans. But we will continue working with communities and partners to safeguard some of Europe’s last free-flowing rivers.
Here’s some exciting news from South America! WWF-Colombia has helped organize the first ever census of the Andean condor, providing vital data about the country’s national symbol as well as showing the value of teamwork in all our conservation efforts. With the species facing an uncertain future due to threats such as habitat loss and hunting, we were desperate to learn as much as possible about the largest flying bird in the world. So we worked alongside other organizations to support over 200 amazing volunteers who simultaneously took observations from 84 points around the country. At least 63 condors were recorded, which indicates that their numbers are lower than previously thought. So the teamwork doesn’t stop there. We must keep taking coordinated action with other friends of the condor to safeguard the future of the species.